Zimbabwe’s former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa flew home yesterday to take power after the resignation of Robert Mugabe ended 37 years of authoritarian rule.
Mnangagwa flew into Harare’s Manyame airbase from South Africa and met key members of the ruling Zanu-PF before heading to State House for a briefing, his aide Larry Mavhima said.
He will be sworn in as president at an inauguration ceremony tomorrow, officials said.
Mugabe’s iron grip ended on Tuesday in a shock announcement to parliament where MPs had convened to impeach him..
Mnangagwa, 75, was sacked by Mugabe on November 6 in a move that pushed infuriated army chiefs to intervene, triggering the events which led to his resignation.
Ahead of Mnangagwa’s arrival, hundreds of people gathered outside Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare in the hope he would address them, some holding placards welcoming him home, while others wore shirts bearing his likeness.
A former key Mugabe ally, Mnangagwa fled the country after his dismissal, saying he would not return without guarantees of safety.
His sacking was the result of an increasingly bitter succession battle with first lady Grace, who had been pushing to take over from her ageing husband.
Mnangagwa is a political veteran and long-time party loyalist who has served in a host of different cabinet positions since independence in 1980 and has close ties with the military.
But critics describe him as a ruthless hardliner behind years of state-sponsored violence, warning he could prove just as authoritarian as his mentor.
And Rinaldo Depagne, of the International Crisis Group, said Mugabe’s departure “does not necessarily mean more democracy”.
Before he left South Africa, Pretoria published a photograph of Mnangagwa shaking hands with President Jacob Zuma following a meeting earlier in the day, with both men grinning broadly.
Mugabe’s resignation capped a chaotic week in which the military seized control and tens of thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets in an unprecedented show of dissent against Mugabe.
“We want our new president to make sure power-hungry gangs don’t infiltrate,” Talent Chamunorwa, 37, a brick seller, said.
“We hope to be able to access our money from the bank come December and the US dollar must come back.”
He was referring to Zimbabwe’s chronic shortage of cash and a mistrusted “bond note” scheme intended to be pegged to the greenback, but trading at a lower rate.
Although Mugabe’s fate remains unknown, Zanu-PF has said he deserved to be treated with respect after leading the country for nearly four decades.
“He deserves to rest and I believe every Zimbabwean agrees with this,” ruling party spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo said.
“But I think he had overstayed the hospitality of the people of Zimbabwe.”
The international community hailed his exit as a chance to reshape Zimbabwe’s future, with British Prime Minister Theresa May saying it offered an opportunity to forge a new path free of the oppression that characterised Mugabe’s rule.
Beijing, which became a major political and economic partner of Harare as it was shunned by the west, said it respected Mugabe’s decision, describing him as a good friend of the Chinese people. – AFP